CAS Trust response to Fans Forum restructure consultation

At the February Fans Forum meeting, the club floated a proposal for a restructure of the Forum into a Supporters Council which would meet with senior club staff six times a year (on match days) and which would be expanded to include up to 25 supporters.

Full details of the proposed changes can be seen here.

CAS Trust has responded as follows:

We would like to set out the views of CAS Trust on the proposals to restructure the existing Fans Forum.

We approach the proposals very conscious of the EFL supporter engagement guidelines which state: "clubs shall hold at least two meetings / fans forums per season to which its supporters (or representatives) are to be invited in order to discuss significant issues relating to the club". As we explain below it is our opinion that this role should be fulfilled by a supporters' trust when one is already in existence at a club.

1. One of the very worthwhile merits of the current Fans Forum format is that attendees are identifiably representatives of a group of supporters, whether this be by special interest or by geography. These representatives are accountable (albeit sometimes informally) to their "members" and there are mechanisms in place whereby this accountability can be put into practice.

2. There can be no objection to the current Fans Forum being expanded if and when new supporter groups are formed as long as the same principle is applied to groups which no longer exist.

3. We understand that the proposal to expand the forum to include representatives from other "unofficial" groups (general seats, specialist seats and wild card seats) is motivated by a wish for greater inclusivity and is driven by some supporters saying that they don't feel fully engaged. We would counsel great caution about this and would like to suggest that, however many extra places are created, there will always be supporters who say they don't feel fully engaged.

4. The mechanics of organising and validating supporter election processes so that they can maintain credibility should not be underestimated. It will be cumbersome, time-consuming and will invite criticism however meticulously it is planned. The FSF recently advised us that when Everton FC advertised for random fans to form a supporters council they received so many nominations that the club decided to undertake its own short listing to make an election manageable - not quite fitting with the EFL guideline " line with basic democratic principles".

5. Of course, the club may nevertheless wish to proceed with the formation of a Supporters Council of 20-25 supporters meeting the club six times a season before a match. This will undoubtedly provide opportunities for more unattached individuals to speak directly to and hear directly from club staff along the lines of the Q&A sessions that have been held this season. However, because of its size, pressure of time, variety of interests and lack of direct accountability, a Supporters Council will not in any meaningful way be able to provide a forum to fulfil the obligation to "discuss significant issues relating to the club" in anything but a superficial way.

6. We have presented to the club as an example of good practice the minutes of a recent meeting held between the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust and senior staff of the club, including the CEO. These minutes demonstrate the extremely high level of preparation and meticulously detailed knowledge required for informed and effective strategic dialogue between club and supporters. This would not be possible in a large, time-limited group drawn from all quarters of the supporter base with competing priorities.

7. Whatever decision the club reaches about the future format of the Fans Forum / Supporters Council we would therefore propose that the most effective route to rigorous and consultative strategic dialogue should be through a small group which is dedicated to this purpose. We propose that this should be set up under the auspices of CAS Trust which is the largest CAFC supporters group and is founded on democratic principles endorsed by Supporters Direct and which is open to all Charlton supporters.

We have outlined our reservations about the proposed Supporters Council above and why we are opposed to its creation if it is proposed as the vehicle for strategic dialogue.

We would however support its creation if it was clearly established to operate alongside a smaller, dedicated strategic forum under the auspices of CAS Trust. The precise relationship between the two groups would be the subject of further discussion.